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Gas-tax hike considered for California roads, infrastructure

November 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Money to fix crumbling roads and outdated highways is short by hundreds of billions of dollars. And because of that, you could be paying more to fill up at the gas pump. There's a push for a hike in the gas tax.

The gas tax we pay is apparently not enough to maintain our current transportation system. The funding gap could delay safety improvements at more than 3,000 California locations.

Whether it's road conditions or endless traffic jams, motorists know it's rough to drive in this state.

A new preliminary report by the California Transportation Commission reveals it'll take more than $500 billion through 2020 to maintain crumbling roads, outdated freeways and public transit.

The problem is we'll barely have half the money.

"We're looking at close to $300 billion that we don't know where it's going to come from to address those needs," said California Transportation Commissioner Jim Earp.

Transportation leaders say it's time to look at raising the gas tax, which is currently 18 cents per gallon for the state, and another 18 cents for the feds.

It hasn't gone up since 1994. At the very least, some experts say, it should increase with inflation.

"When you look at not having raised the gas tax and when you look at the fact that the cost of building has more than doubled since then, the relative value of that gas tax has really, really declined," said Earp.

But with high gas prices and tough economic times still gripping consumers, most voters and politicians are reluctant to approve tax hikes.

"I think what we're always a little hesitant about is, is it really being levied to fix that problem or is it just grabbing the money for something else?" said driver Courtney Nowling.

Without some sort of funding increase, some fear the once-envied transportation system in California could collapse.

"Our infrastructure is why we are the state that we are, why we have the economy that we do," said Earp. "Without it, we're just like another Third World nation."

But there are signs sentiments may be changing. In Tuesday's elections, about 80 percent of local majority-vote tax measures unrelated to schools passed throughout the state.